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McMullan left Push Pin in 1969 just as Milton Glaser and Clay Felker were starting New York Magazine, and McMullan became part of the core group of artists that contributed to that magazine's singular graphic personality. After doing many projects for New York, McMullan embarked on a journalistic story, contributing the visual element of what became the magazine's most famous reportage. This was the story of the Brooklyn discotheque that became the basis for the movie Saturday Night Fever. McMullan's paintings were done from the photographs he took at the scene, but were developed independently of the text, becoming a unique form of visual journalism that paralleled, but did not spring from, the writer's words.

In the same year, 1976, McMullan did his first Broadway poster. It was for a play called COMEDIANS, which was directed by Mike Nichols, and produced by Alexander H. Cohen. Six more posters for Alex Cohen followed, including one featuring Liv Ullman in ANNA CHRISTIE. The experience of working with Cohen led McMullan to a fortuitous meeting with Bernard Gersten, Cohen's right-hand man. Gersten eventually became Executive Producer of Lincoln Center Theater and, remembering McMullan's work, hired him to create theatrical posters for that institution.

In 1979 Jim McMullan married Kate Hall, a children book writer from St. Louis and a year later, their daughter was born. As a new father Jim found himself interested in Illustrating books. Their first book together, The Noisy Giant's Tea Party, was inspired by Jim and Kate's experience with their daughter, and was published by Michael Di Capua at Harper Collins in 1992. To date, the McMullan's have collaborated on six picture books, including the about-to-be published I STINK, a monologue by a garbage truck with attitude.

In 1981 James McMullan published the first book on his work, REVEALING ILLUSTRATIONS, an unusually candid description of his working method. It became, for many illustration teachers around the country, an unofficial textbook.